One day, we'll all look back on this year and laugh. Well, maybe not laugh... cry? Despair? Curse? Probably some combination of all the above. But we've tried to look past the dreaded C-word, the Taylor Swift albums and the endless waves of home-studio-concert-streams on YouTube by artists trying to continue to make a living to bring you this: our year in review.
We've assembled as a team to bring you the things you may not have known you missed this year. The best video games, ambient/classical music, the saddest losses, the best (and worst) cover art and more. We've also assembled a few "meta" lists showing our most popular content from this year, as well as our featured album streams. Go ahead and catch up on what you missed, so that one day you too can look back on 2020 and remember it for other reasons than the obvious ones.
10 Best Random Music Discoveries I Had in 2020
Randomly finding a diamond in the rough, as it were, when exploring new music releases feels like a revelation. Here are 10 outstanding albums of 2020 I more or less discovered by serendipity.
Times and Tides
I get a lot of random songs stuck in my head. That several tracks from this synth rock album joined the rotation after just a few listens I think speaks to the power of this Norman, Oklahoma group’s music. Frequently dramatic, often quite catchy, this was my favorite random find of the year. It’s also proof that the concept album still has relevance in 2020.
Staring at Clocks
Chunky straight up rock music from this Dublin three-piece that combines elements of shoegaze, grunge, and post-punk into their tunes. I love the guitar and bass tones on this album, and the whole thing has just the right amount of fuzz and outright noise. Overall quality and consistency (there’s no filler and several real bangers) make this a downright impressive debut album that struck me as a breath of fresh air in an era of increasingly generic “indie music.” No album I heard this year rocked harder.
Kaigo Kioku Kyoku
Had no expectations going into this album from former Yamantaka // Sonic Titan guitarist Tanaka, and was pleasantly surprised by this gorgeous, heartfelt, and somewhat heart-wrenching album built around the idea of being a caregiver for loved ones (album title translates as “Caregiving Memory Songs”). A lot of folk music doesn’t really do much for me since a lot of it sounds pretty samey to me. When I find folk music that I do like, however, I tend to like it a lot. That was the case for this compelling, deeply personal, and almost dreamlike work that features interesting instrumentation and percussion elements.
New Records in Human Power
Another case where a band succeeds by not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is simply an exhilarating (and succinct) punk rock record packed with catchy licks, amusing lyrics, and an appropriate amount of sass. Or maybe about precisely what I’d expect from a group that’s a bit peculiar.
Without the Eyes
Everything about this seems designed to make people uncomfortable: the band’s name, that cover, the sleazy sorts of sounds, subject matter, and vocal delivery on the album. That’s probably the point, but there’s no denying that this trio’s brand of electro punk music is arresting. Another debut release that points to bigger things ahead, and considering the timely themes featured on this album, it will be fascinating to see what the future holds for CLT DRP.
Body / Negative
Truth in advertising. This entire album seems to provide just the slightest glimpse into another world, with airy vocals and delicate, almost whimsical melodies figuring prominently in the proceedings. Though the entire album is supremely beautiful, there’s something haunting about it, as if we’re getting, yes, fragments and not the whole story, which in turn only makes it more intriguing. I’m not sure I could truly pin down why I like this album, maybe it’s the childlike wonder it seems to tap into, but I think it’s magnificent.
Just the kind of bright and relaxing listening experience that provided a ray of sunshine in the midst of everything 2020 had to offer. The debut from Israeli artist Polanski offers plenty of warm electronic elements and ethereal and hazy vocals on the majority of its tracks, but also provides a few dreamy instrumentals. Kind of reminds me of what Chromatics might sound like if they gave up on the disco elements.
Good Songs for Bad People
This album seems to have landed in 2020 from a different time. Many of the tunes here might as well have been lifted from a super cool noir-inspired film from the late ‘60s (that warbling flute gets me every time…) and I also get some serious European vibes from the singing and overall smoky atmosphere. Maybe this isn’t an outright masterpiece (like, why does the male singer show up out of nowhere so late in the going?), but it boasts some great tracks and I didn’t hear a whole lot this year that sounded even remotely like it. I think that speaks for something.
Interesting that this collaboration between Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke and his wife, American musician and multidisciplinary artist Danielle De Picciotto, would be called The Current. Musically, this album reminds me of the dark and just plain disconcerting sound of a band like Current 93, but the album also seems to touch on many contemporary issues such as social equality, even if in a somewhat indirect sort of way. Further, the ominous overall atmosphere may as well be a representation of humankind in 2020. Still, there are some glimpses of hope here and there, and I’d have to say that the sonically diverse release is a beguiling bit of sound art.
Indie/dream pop, I might even label most of the album as slowcore, in the Slumberland Records sort of vein that I found to be sublime in its simplicity. The band’s not doing anything crazy in the least, but it’s just nice to listen to. I also kind of love the restrained use of synth here to create mood. Maybe this record is a bit too low key, but I found it to be a perfect after a long day or for a lazy afternoon.